Chandelier at CosmopolitanNow that Whirl and I are snowbound at home under the blanket of the 2011 Groundhog Day blizzard, I’ll see if I can’t piece together the threads, fragments, snippets and fabrications into some sort of interesting narrative about our sixth annual trip to Las Vegas. In case you’re curious, we already have have 9 inches of snow, 40-50 mph winds, whiteout conditions, 15-25 foot waves on Lake Michigan, lightning and thunder. Thunder. In a snowstorm. I saw the lightning with my own eyes. The thunder was eerily muffled by the snow. Predictions are for 3″ to 4″ per hour from now until 5 AM Wednesday morning. So, let it snow. I can’t stop it, I might as well appreciate it.

As we have for the past two years, we stayed at the Flamingo in the middle of the Las Vegas strip. This year I started collecting bits of observation about our stay there. We’ve noticed there is something a little peculiar about the music that constantly plays throughout the casinos. A particular songs will repeat with uncanny frequency. The song is often older — 15 or 20 years past its prime — once popular, but not one I would consider a particularly impressive classic. This ad-hoc themesong is recognizably dated. The first song to strike us in this way several years ago was Tom Cochrane‘s “Life Is a Highway“. This year we set about actively looking for the themesong. We came up with three candidate songs:

I was partial to naming the Roxette song as our themesong. The other two had strong arguments supporting them. All three meet the requirements and I personally heard all three of these mostly forgettable melodies at least three times in three different places around the Strip.

The other element I began tracking began with less preparation. I was inspired by a spontaneous conversation that erupted in front of Steamboat and me as we made our way across the casino floor. We were following a group of four girls who were walking in two groups of two. Each of the four women was dressed in the requisite Las Vegas nightclub uniform: the little black dress or its variation the little black miniskirt paired with a shiny silk blouse. Requisite too-high heels and a tiny clutch finish the ensemble. The forward pair were making a path through the mingling crowd, and it was the latter two that we unintentionally overheard. I should correct that statement. One of the two was rather despondant. Her head was down. She did not make eye contact. Her companion, walking beside her and perhaps a halfstep behind, was ostensibly comforting the other woman. The speaking voice was cool, uninflected — almost mechanical — as it chanted.

You’re sexy. You’re beautiful. You’re totally rockin’ that outfit.

It struck me as the sort of ironic environmental commentary one might hear while running around Las Venturas while playing Grand Theft Auto. I bust out laughing. I couldn’t help it. The unsympathetic, detached tone contrasting so vibrantly with the constructed projection of a particular look and persona.

I began to collect a few more snippets of overheard conversation from around the Flamingo. Here they are, ripped of any context and stripped of intentional irony:

  • “Dude, are those Flamingos?”
  • “Rawhide cleavage.”
  • “Well, I guess I can’t see your cleft lip from behind.”

Other random encounters included a long conversation at the craps table about the probabilties and strategies of betting against the shooter, witnessing someone win a $9000 jackpot on a slot machine, and discussing the probable meaning of a typo-laden text message on a woman’s phone. (I agreed, it did seem like her boyfriend was asking her if she wanted a burger and fries even if the text itself looked closer to “gurger nad frips.”)

Besides the typical gambling on poker, pai gow and craps, we took in a few new things this time around that we haven’t enjoyed on previous trips. Bitsy and I designed a team jersey for all of us. The jersey included a logo, nicknames and numbers. We all wore them boarding the plane, and from time to time throughout the weekend while in Las Vegas. It was goofy and frivolous, but fun. It also made it very simple to find each other on the casino floor. Hurricane‘s mother, Sibyl, celebrated her birthday with us on Friday. We combined that event with an idea AK and I had had after his trip to Dallas late last year. We went to Tom Colicchio‘s restaurant, craftsteak. Bitsy and I had agreed to try one of the tasting menus. And after a bit of discussion we recruited T. to our plan. With that phalanx in place, we quickly set about convincing the rest of our table to try the same. And as a result we had one of the best meals I have ever had. We enjoyed five different cuts of wagyu beef, delicious appetizers, sides and more than a dozen different deserts. The entire experience lasted almost four hours: from the scotch before dinner to the final cup of coffee at the end. It was an incredible way to spend an evening. Bitsy and I agreed that it would be a fine thing to incorporate into future Las Vegas trips.

niqui, Whirl and I enjoyed fantastic sushi one night. I went to have delicious Thai and Vietnamese food with Bitsy, T., AK and niqui. And I could not pass up the opportunity to return to Hash House A Go Go for breakfast. I failed to finish the crispy hand hammered pork tenderloin benedict even after our waiter challenged me to do so. He’d only served one person that day who had successfully joined the clean plate club with that dish. If I had succeeded, he would have bought my breakfast, and a t-shirt. I didn’t make it.

Las Vegas Gun Range 9

The Flamingo added a brewery to the property since last year: Sin City Brewing Company. Saturday night I proposed to Steamboat that we grab some of their fresh-brewed beer and enjoy them outside for a couple hours. That turned into a makeshift gathering around a firepit and extended far beyond what I had originally intended. Plastic cups, beer from kegs, a fire, outside. It reminded me of a party from twenty years ago. Except with much better beer. And I’m not twenty.

Earlier Saturday I joined Steamboat, AK and T. on their second trip to the Las Vegas Gun Range and Firearm Center. I haven’t been to a range in many years — perhaps I should consider this a special time machine side trip. We fired a number of weapons including a M-16, a Desert Eagle .50ae, a HK MP5, a HK USP Tactical .45 suppressed, a Carl Gustav M/45 SMG, and a 12 gauge semiautomatic tactical shotgun. I was the only one of my friends who had done any shooting of any real significance. They were very excited about the experience and I had as much fun firing rounds as I did shooting photographs of them.

John on Fremont Street Zipline 1Our last night in town we headed down to Fremont street. AK and niqui had never been there, so we showed them around the older casinos, gambled a bit. I hadn’t been downtown for a couple years. Some things had changed — most notably the addition of a zipline running the length of Fremont Street above the pedway. Smokes took the plunge and rode the line before we departed to pack up and come home the next morning.

But on our last night, after encountering more than my fair share, I got to thinking about a potential collective noun for a group of douchebags. Suggestions included: affliction, clot, flush, hemorrhage, purge and smear. We reached agreement on the term: hemorrhage. So there you have it: a hemorrhage of douchebags. Coming to a casino near you.